The joy of owning a home is being able to create a comfortable and safe place to live. Now, more than ever, our living space is not confined to just a roof over our head but also includes numerous outdoor spaces to enjoy. Whether you want to read peacefully by a patio fireplace or make a splash by the pool, ceramic tile helps you create outdoor living spaces to be envied.
Outdoor living spaces can include a porch, patio, fire pit or fireplace, pool, walkways, garden areas, rooftop terrace, and/or an outdoor kitchen. The versatility of ceramic tile makes every one of these outdoor living areas both functional and stylish.
Benefits of Tile for Outdoor Living Areas
It’s a given that outdoor surfaces must “weather” more than indoor surfaces. Your outdoor living area may be exposed to extreme temperatures, humid or arid conditions, moisture from rain, snow, sprinklers, and dripping flower pots, splashes from the pool or jacuzzi, and more. Your outdoor surface material must be able to withstand a variety of conditions not just once, but repeatedly over the years.
Ceramic tile stands up to outdoor elements with unmatched durability. Even in the face of constant exposure to everyday threats, including animals, yard debris, outdoor furniture, heavy foot traffic, and weather, tile will serve you for decades with scratch, dent, stain, scuff, water, fade, and flame resistance.
Ceramic tile offers slip-resistant options for outdoor wet conditions, whether you have a walkway wet from a garden hose, a patio damp from a summer shower, or a pool area intermittently splashed by belly flops.
Resistance to Freeze and Thaw Cycles
For climates that experience freeze and thaw cycles, ceramic tile has the answer! Many ceramic tiles (including porcelain tile and quarry tile) can withstand the otherwise damaging effects of extreme outdoor conditions and are an ideal choice for outdoor living areas in colder climates.
Flame resistance will be top of mind for you if your lifestyle includes an outdoor kitchen or fireplace.
Ceramic tile is noncombustible and won’t produce smoke, burn, melt, or give off toxic fumes when in contact with flames. In the unfortunate case of a fire, ceramic tile may even reduce the spread of flames, potentially offering an escape path.
Low-maintenance benefits make ceramic tile a preferred material for outdoor use:
- Stain resistance: Spills, leaves, and muddy pawprints won’t stain your ceramic tile.
- Easy cleaning: When messes happen, wiping with water is usually all that’s necessary to clean your ceramic tile — no need for harsh chemicals (or the runoff that could harm vegetation)!
- Scratch resistance: Patio furniture, outdoor toys and sports equipment, flower pots, and BBQ grills, oh my — enjoy outdoor living without the worry of maring ceramic tile.
- Mold and mildew resistance: Ceramic tile is made of naturally occurring materials and is inhospitable to the growth of mold and mildew.
Limitless Design Possibilities
Advances in manufacturing technology allow for an unlimited amount of designs, including textured and dimensional tile styles. You even have the ability to design your own gauged porcelain tile slab to create an original look for your outdoor space.
Because ceramic tile has the functionality to be installed in many different outdoor spaces (keep reading for our top ideas), you can coordinate your look with a “family” of tile options that have been designed to work together. For example, choose a consistent style for your tile patio and outdoor tile feature wall, or combine different tile designs that contrast with or complement one another.
Having a beautiful outdoor space will inspire you to get outside and soak up some sunshine, but first make sure that your outdoor surface material can handle the rays. Ceramic tile won’t fade or change color when exposed to the sun — your design will continue looking great for years to come. (You, on the other hand, should probably wear some sunscreen!)
Ceramic tile is one of the most eco-friendly design choices for outdoor living spaces, allowing you to build alongside nature without causing nature any harm. This starts with the fact that ceramic tile introduces no harmful materials or toxins into the earth — no plastic-based materials, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or formaldehyde.
The materials used to make ceramic tile are often sourced within 500 miles of manufacturing facilities, significantly reducing the emissions and energy associated with long-distance shipping. Ceramic tile’s durability allows it to be used for generations, and because ceramic tile is made from naturally occurring materials, it typically qualifies for use as clean fill at the end of its long life cycle.
[Related: Ceramic Tile’s Answer to the Plastic Problem]
Types of Ceramic Tile for Outdoor Applications
Resistance to moisture, fading, and staining allows all types of ceramic tile to function beautifully in outdoor applications. For areas with freeze-thaw conditions, be sure your tile is rated for that application. Porcelain and quarry tile are especially well-suited for outdoor spaces where repeated freeze-thaw cycles are a concern.
Porcelain tile is “impervious” ceramic tile, fired at a higher temperature and to a lower absorption than regular ceramic tile. These qualities make porcelain tile an outdoor choice for areas with repeated freeze/thaw exterior applications.
Porcelain tile’s strength (it’s stronger than granite) means chips and scratches are extremely unlikely — important to consider when using outdoor furniture or your space is open to outdoor elements.
Quarry tile is extruded from a clay mixture into a tile shape before being fired, whereas other types of ceramic tile are pressed into shape. As with porcelain tile, quarry tile is especially suited for freeze/thaw outdoor applications.
Quarry tile is also a “natural” match for the outdoors aesthetically, as it typically has a rustic look and a color palette of earth tones. Red is the most common color of quarry tile, but it can also come in tan, brown, gray, and even black.
Be careful not to confuse quarry tile with terra cotta tile, which looks similar to red quarry tile but isn’t nearly as durable or moisture-resistant!
Outdoor Living Spaces
Ceramic tile’s versatility in both style and function allow it to work in all of your outdoor living areas. Here are our favorite uses of outdoor tile.
A beautiful tiled porch welcomes guests to your home. Create an inviting, comfortable space with ceramic tile that stands out and stands up to pets, weather, and rocking chairs.
Turn your patio into another room of your home — an outdoor dining room and/or living room creates space for barbecues, birthday parties, and romantic candlelit dinners. Experts note that an outdoor living space is a top priority for people who are shopping for a home and advise that a successful outdoor design should flow as a natural extension of the interior footprint. Ceramic tile’s versatility allows you to use the same or similar tile inside and out so that your surface choices create continuity in your design.
[Related: Indoor-Outdoor Tile: Your Complete Guide]
Rooftop Terrace Tile
Ceramic tile on your rooftop terrace provides you one more view to admire, as well as a waterproof assembly with strength and longevity that enhances the protection of your roof. When recreation and green spaces are limited, ceramic tile creates a magical space for you up on the roof!
Ceramic tile is a trusted material for pools and pool decks because of its ability to form a waterproof assembly that protects your pool construction from damaging leaks. Ceramic tile also offers fade resistance from the effects of pool chemicals and the relentless sun of warmer climates and seasons. Tile’s resistance to mold, mildew, and bacteria will help keep your pool a healthy space, and slip-resistant options ensure that you can choose the best ceramic tile for your pool project.
Walkways create a path in and out of your home. Make sure your paths are as beautiful and durable as your inside and outside living areas by using ceramic tile. Choose a ceramic tile walkway that looks like natural stone for a classic look, or choose something unique, such as the wood-look tile in the photo above. This particular style gives you the ceramic tile advantage of the look of wood without the deterioration of a wood product exposed to outdoor conditions.
Outdoor Tile Fireplace Surround
An outdoor fireplace or fire pit can extend the seasons of your outdoor living and keep your patio FUNctional well after the summer sun stops shining. Ceramic tile offers flame resistance in versatile style options for fireplace surrounds that are also freeze-thaw resistant! But, fireplaces aren’t just for chilly evenings anymore. Enjoy the year-round beauty a fireplace brings to your outdoor living space with ceramic tile. Choose from intricate mosaics to large slabs/planks, with finishes that evoke marble, stone, metal, and even wood. And, being easy-to clean, tile will handle roasting marshmallows and so much s’more.
Outdoor Tile Feature Wall
A tile feature wall can enhance the natural beauty of your outdoor living space by coordinating with your other surfaces, such as how this tile emulating glass block adds a subtle sense of luxury that contrasts beautifully with the concrete-look tile patio. Feature walls give you the opportunity to provide privacy elements, to upgrade existing structures, and to add interest and decorative focus to architectural exteriors.
Tile for Outdoor Kitchens and Bars
A tiled outdoor kitchen or tiled bar brings the party outside and makes the most of your outdoor space. Ceramic tile provides stain, scratch, and flame resistance so that you’ll be set to cook up a storm! (Oh, we hope it doesn’t rain but if it does — ceramic tile installation creates a waterproof assembly that will protect your outdoor kitchen and bar surfaces!)
Indoor-Outdoor Tile Transitions
Indoor-outdoor transitional spaces are the ultimate way to merge your indoor and outdoor lifestyles. The versatility of ceramic tile allows you to choose an option that can be installed both indoors and out. This continuity creates a seamless flow back and forth, with the looks and benefits of ceramic tile that excel in any space. Some tile designs are even made with different textures and more slip-resistant options for exterior use.
Pro tip: Slip resistance is an important consideration in any circumstance when moisture or dirt may be present or tracked inside.
Beautiful Outdoor Tile Designs
Stone-Look Outdoor Tile
Stone-look ceramic tile is a popular choice for creating a look that feels right at home outside. A wide assortment of natural stone looks are possible with ceramic tile, including marble and granite looks.
Slate-Look Outdoor Tile
Slate-look tile has a natural aesthetic and provides the opportunity for subtle or dramatic color variations, depending on how big of an impact you want to make with your outdoor living space.
Wood-Look Outdoor Tile
Wood is a classic look for outdoor spaces, but, oh, the maintenance! Now you can enjoy rustic wood looks with the easy care of ceramic tile. Fade-resistant and water-resistant ceramic tile won’t be altered by the damaging effects of the sun or rain. Ceramic tile is also flame-resistant — imagine that with wood! (We might also add that ceramic tile is scratch-resistant — #watchingforbears.)
Concrete-Look Outdoor Tile
The concrete look has a no-nonsense vibe that pairs well with many outdoor spaces. Concrete-look ceramic tile achieves this highly-desirable aesthetic without the maintenance issues of concrete. (Concrete can be damaged by fire and heat, abrasion and erosion, shrinkage, overload and high impacts, freeze-thaw cycles, corrosion, and chemicals.)
Terrazzo-Look Outdoor Tile
Terrazzo is a flooring material traditionally made by exposing “chunks” of glass, granite, quartz, marble, and other products on the surface of concrete and then polishing until smooth. Terrazzo-look ceramic tile achieves this look without the higher cost of the added materials or the additional polishing and maintenance. Terrazzo-look ceramic tile has the style versatility to shape an outdoor living space with a traditional tone or a funky feel depending on the colors and size of “chunks” designed for the tile.
Outdoor Mosaic Tile
Mosaic tile is revered for the ability to create floral and geometric patterns and/or repetitive shapes that collectively create unique visual textures. Mosaic tile can transform your outdoor space with a tiled feature wall, swimming pool tile, tiled steps, a patio inlay, a fountain, and more!
Rustic Outdoor Tile
Ceramic tile allows you to create a rustic-looking outdoor living area without the concerns associated with materials that are actually weathered. Quarry tile works especially well for rustic outdoor spaces and gives you many different design options.
[Related: Explore the Great Outdoor Tile Possibilities]
The Great Outdoors Is Calling!
With the beauty, durability, and versatility of ceramic tile, you can create an enchanting outdoor living area to welcome you home, entertain friends, or escape to at any time of day.
Find more outdoor tile inspiration on our Outdoor Tile Pinterest board and in our Design Gallery. Then … get outside!
Where to Buy Tile
Use the search tool at the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) to find a ceramic tile showroom in your area for a more individual, one-on-one shopping, design and education experience, or visit a home improvement or flooring retailer.